We sing of amazing grace with hope and longing. Grace is a word that inspires and encourages people of all faiths and walks of life.
Theologically, grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” A good, sound concept.
But there is something more tangible about grace. Something we can picture in our minds.
“Show me your glory!” Moses asked God. He had such a close, intimate relationship with the Almighty that Moses could speak directly to Him as a friend and ask for favors.
God responded, “I will make all My goodness pass before you…I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:19).
The Lord was willing to impart grace to Moses. Grace, as I discovered by studying the original Hebrew language, is even more than a favor granted in spite of our failings.
When God explained that He will be gracious (to whomever He chooses, even if it doesn’t make sense to us), He used the word chanan, which adds a new layer to our understanding. Chanan means to show favor, mercy, “to bend or stoop in kindness.” God is not only granting favor and mercy, but the word picture is of Him bending down to us in kindness, like a father getting down on his knees to embrace his child.
There’s even more to this picture. The root word of chanan means to pitch a tent; to encamp, abide camp, dwell, rest in a tent.
This kind of grace is more than an almighty God granting favor. He wants to dwell with us, to “camp out” with us! The God who is so very beyond us, not of this world, desires for His glory to abide with us and in us. In an act of great love, He bends, stoops down from the heavens in a wonderful gesture of revelation.
Remember Jacob, who lied to his father, Isaac, and cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright? Conniving Jacob. One day, running away from Esau, he camped in the wilderness, alone and vulnerable. God did not use this opportunity to punish Jacob. Instead, He blessed him through a dream in which He said, “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants” (Genesis 28:13).
Jacob woke up and exclaimed, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” Jacob had no clue, was not even expecting to hear from the Lord. But grace. Grace changed everything. Even Jacob’s character.
He took a stone, poured oil over it, and named the place Bethel, the house of God, a holy place where God dwelt. He made a promise that “the Lord shall be my God.”
God will be gracious to whomever He chooses. He will come and live with, dwell with, campout out with whoever He chooses, even when it makes no sense to anyone else. Even if it doesn’t meet our standard of approval.
The Almighty Lord desires to dwell with us. Not just rule over us. Certainly not to start a religion. But to love us and live with us in a tangible, real way. To show us the way, the truth, and the life.
The ultimate experience of God bending down, stooping down to the ground to come into our lives and literally “pitch His tent” and dwell among us, is the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus is the living tent of God who came down from heaven. When we receive Him into our hearts, the Holy Spirit of God abides in us.
Jesus bent down from heaven to lay down His life and to show us eternal life in human form, in the flesh. He came to redeem us and to join us in the trials of life. "He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap" (Psalm 113: 7). He comes down to our level.
And He will be gracious, even unto us. That’s grace.
*Strong’s Concordance reference H2603 and H2583.